The family of Nicholas Ashley are paying tribute to the life of a son, brother, nephew, cousin, and Godson by taking on the Great South Run in October, 2019. This is a blog by Nicholas' mum, Sarah, about the team's successes (and mishaps!).

Nicholas Ashley

Click on the image to see more members of Nicholas' Great South Run team

Blog 6 - October 29

This final blog is bittersweet as we celebrate the achievements of our seven runners, however, it brings to an end the blog and selfishly the outpouring of my emotions.

The week preceding the Great South Run saw torrential rain but the day before the clouds cleared and the weekend was a beautiful if slightly cold autumn day. Half the team and their families met the night before for supper and last minute words of wisdom. The sun shone on Sunday and from 7am there was a flurry of texts flowing as to who had arrived, where the rest of the team were, and what everyone was consuming; mainly tea, porridge and bananas. We all met at 9.30am and were joined by Rachel, who was running separately to us for the Encephalitis Society, and John who was supporting; the obligatory photographs were taken. The atmosphere was like a street party and the joint warm up sessions were fun to watch. As our runners approached the start line there were the inevitable tears as we remembered Nicholas. And they were off .

Julian - Nicholas’ dad. Julian completed the run in 1hr 29 minutes and 47 seconds beating both our girls, it is an outstanding achievement as he carries long term damage to one of his lower legs. An achievement that will undoubtably go down in family history and be recycled and embellished; a trait within all families I’m sure.

Rebecca - Nicholas’ sister. Rebecca and Bethan were seen running together at the 5.5 mile stage still laughing and smiling. Rebecca completed in 1hr 40 minutes and 45 seconds.

Bethan - Nicholas’ sister. Bethan flew in from New York to complete the run and was battling jet lag but finished in 1hr 34 minutes and 37 seconds. She returned to New York the following evening!

Stephanie - Nicholas’ aunt. Stephanie and Laura had a pact to support and run together and indeed they finished together at 2hrs 14 minutes and 28 seconds.

Ed - Nicholas’ cousin. As predicted from day one, Ed came in first of our runners. He completed in an amazing 1hr 17 minutes and 58 seconds. 

Laura - Nicholas’ godmother. Laura finished alongside Stephanie at 2hrs 14 minutes and 28 seconds. The pain, exhilaration and sense of achievement were evident on Laura’s face when she finished the run.

Gary - Family friend. Gary managed to overcome his ‘Alice in Wonderland’ moment and after much contemplation decided to run. I think that it may have been a ruse to fool his opponents as he completed in 1hr 35 minutes and 38 seconds.

Joanne - Nicholas’ aunt. Joanne completed the Oldham half marathon the following week in a magnificent time of three hours; it is a challenging course as it is very hilly. Joanne’s monies are included in our funds total. Joanne's JustGiving page

Emotions were running high after the run with tears of exhilaration, achievement, pain and the regret that we were doing this a direct result of Nicholas’ death.

The reward of a fabulous Sunday lunch and alcohol was enjoyed by all, overlooking the Solent, we were joined by more family members to mark the occasion.

Our runners and their supporters have raised in excess of £7500, an outstanding achievement, particularly as Rebecca who initiated the whole sequence of events hoped to raise £250 when she discussed this back in February when we were celebrating Nicholas’ birthday.

I would like to thank the Encephalitis Society not only for the opportunity of our runners running on their behalf but their support and for allowing me to write about our antics and our love for Nicholas. Nicholas is the first thing I think about as I wake and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep; I will love him forever and I hope that the immense pain that we still feel will subside and become more manageable.


The other group of people to thank is the team of unknown professionals; physiotherapists and osteopaths who have kept our runners mobile pre and post the run.

Despite assurances that no-one is ever going to undertake such an event ever again, their have been mutterings of a night cycle race and the 100 mile London bike race!

Blog 5 - October 7

Just over a week to go!

The information packs have arrived, individual numbers assigned and starting times are allocated. Photographs of Nicholas as a child, and an adult have been ironed onto running tops. The reality of the imminent run has caused a ripple of excitement for some and panic for others, although there has been much preparation. It appears that our runners have experienced every type of injury to their lower limbs that is possible during their seven months of training! However, determination, rest, pain relief, physiotherapy and a cause has enabled them to battle through. For some the evening of the 20th of October will be the day they hang up their running trainers for ever, for others the run represents just a part of their lives.

The JustGiving monies are accumulating nicely, with Julian’s total remaining in the lead.   We have raised £2498 so far, and we still have two more runners’ sponsorship money to add to this total.  Congratulations to everyone. 

Julian - Nicholas’ dad, continues his love/hate relationship with running. When recently attending Sarah’s gym (she was sensibly attending a Pilates class) calamity ensued; he shot off the back of the treadmill whilst trying to switch from music to watching the television! No significant physical injury was sustained, only to his pride, as he had twenty onlookers who looked up with the mixed emotions of shock, surprise and mirth. With the coolness of a stunned animal, he jumped straight back on to the treadmill to complete his run, pretending that he had no idea what all of the commotion was about! Julian is renowned within our family for not being able to concentrate on two things at once, he once fell off a button ski lift whilst trying to do up his ski jacket; much to my and Bethan’s amusement! Julian completed his fourth and final 10K training run last weekend, having completed a 10 mile training run a few weeks ago just to prove to himself that he could last the distance. Julian's JustGiving Page

Rebecca - Nicholas’ sister. Rebecca recently completed a 10 mile run in a good time, to ensure that she could run the distance; although she did complete a half marathon in 2016! Rebecca's JustGiving Page

Bethan - Nicholas’ sister. Fully recovered from her injuries Bethan has been pounding the streets of New York, Los Angeles and Boston. She returns to the UK the week before the run. She is hoping for milder weather, having been training in temperatures approaching 30 degrees celsius. Bethan's Just Giving Page 

Stephanie - Nicholas’ aunt. Stephanie has recovered from injury and has returned to both running and spinning. She may require an ankle support during the run. Stephanie's JustGiving Page

Ed - Nicholas’ cousin. Ed has also completed a 10 mile training run too in an extremely good time; so the competition is hotting up again. Ed's JustGiving page

Laura - Nicholas’ godmother. Laura sustained an ankle and back injury after getting pushed over in a crowd - I have come to believe that these injuries only happen to those in training for a specific event. She is recovering slowly and has recently completed a 5K run after physiotherapy, but her determination to finish is evident. Laura is looking forward to a gin and tonic post race. Laura's JustGiving page

Gary - Family friend. Hitherto, it was only Alice in Wonderland that fell down a rabbit hole. However, Gary followed her example on a recent training run, and now has a serious ankle injury. Unfortunately, this is the ankle which has had several previous injuries, which sadly means that Gary has had to defer his run. He will now compete in another run early next year in order to give his ankle time to fully recover. Gary is still committed to raising funds for the charity. Gary's JustGiving Page

The reward for all the training is the knowledge that our runners have raised a significant amount of money for The Encephalitis Society; enabling research, raising awareness of this illness and providing support for both healthcare professionals and carers alike.

The other reward will be the Sunday lunch we have arranged for later in the day, accompanied by a glass of wine or two. The runners will be joined by their own families alongside Nicholas’ extended family and friends. There will be the inevitable tears at the end of the race as we once more realise the hole that Nicholas has left in all of our lives, and the injustice of this terrible illness.

Would Nicholas approve of this fund raising event? Yes, he would have loved the attention and the dedication of the whole team.

Am I proud of Nicholas and how he coped with this terrible illness? I’m proud with every bone and breath in my body, and love him as much today as the day he was born.

One more blog with pictures will follow after the run when the total monies raised are known, and the super fit athletes are recovering from all of their inevitable aches and pains!


Blog 4 - August 25

July 13th 2019 marked one year since Nicholasuntimely death, an anniversary that was anticipated with dread, tears and disbelief. As a family we decided to acknowledge the anniversary in a positive way, we went to the Lake District and spread Nicholasashes. The Lake District held special memories for Nicholas; I found it a calm and cathartic experience. We were joined later in the day by our extended family. A positive side of the weekend is that Julian, Rebecca and Bethan were able to have a short run out as can be seen in the photographs.

The unpredictable weather has impacted our runners over the last eight weeks, as it has varied between torrential run and beautiful sunshine with glorious temperatures. Ed helpfully suggested via our WhatsApp group that switching your route to forest trails would be beneficial; Julian tried this and face planted the forest floor grazing his arms, legs and face! Perhaps it was a ploy of Eds to win!

Julian -  NicholasDad. Julian has completed his third competitive10K and continues to alternate short and longer runs weekly. His neck injury has recovered after physiotherapy but he is now sporting a hamstring injury; so is resting for a few weeks. Julian is emphatic that he will stop running on the 21st October but our girls do not believe him! Julian's JustGiving Page

Rebecca - NicholasSister. Rebeccas plantar fasciitis is healing after therapy and she is back running again. She completed a competitive 10K in July with a fabulous time. She runs alongside her dog, whose enthusiasm shows no waning. Rebecca's JustGiving Page

Bethan - NicholasSister. After a serious injury (tearing her ATL (Anterior Talofibular Ligament) she is back running with the guidance of her physiotherapist. She has exchanged the streets of London for the streets of New York for a while.

Stephanie - NicholasAunt. Her Achilles tendon is improving with physiotherapy and a personal trainer.  Stephanie has started running but feels that if Ed gives her a piggy back then she has a good chance of completing the course in a good time, especially as Bethans injury has healed. Stephanie's JustGiving Page

Ed - NicholasCousin. Ed had to stop running for a month due to injury, but has restarted at the beginning of August. Ed is super fit as he cycles competitively. Ed's JustGiving page

Laura - NicholasGodmother. Laura is doing amazingly well and has managed a 10K. Laura's JustGiving page

Gary - Family Friend. Gary has completed his first run but has developed a calf issue. We all believe that he is secretly marathon training!

The fund raising via JustGiving is mounting up and Julian is topping the leader board with 438% above the requested minimum. In our highly competitive group perhaps I can use this inspiration as a form of incentive, to inspire not only our small group, but all the other people who try and succeed at tasks in their selfless endeavours to provide funds for a worthy cause.

The Great South Run is eight weeks away,there will be one more update just prior to the day. 

Blog 3 - June 3

The sponsorship monies for the Encephalitis Society are beginning to build, for those who have completed their JustGiving page. Its a balancing act when asking for sponsorship money, partially it is the remembrance of Nicholas, alongside the feat to be completed (and for some of our runners it certainly is a feat!), coupled with the desire to support an organisation that can provide support and ultimately a greater understanding of this terrible disease that robbed Nicholas of his life, and us of our son.

Julian -  NicholasDad. Continues to dislike running and is now carrying a neck injury, as well as   his dodgy knee and achilles tendon - isnt age a wonderful thing! However, congratulations are also due as Julian recently completed his first ever 10k over a difficult cross country terrain in 1 hour and 1 minute, coming 124th out of 225 racers. He has three further 10K runs planned before October.

Rebecca - NicholasSister. Rebeccas plantar fasciitis is healing slowly and she is hoping to start running again soon.

Bethan - NicholasSister. Disaster has struck after a promising start, with Bethan damaging and tearing her ATL (Anterior Talofibular Ligament) quite significantly in her ankle whilst in the Philippines. Bethan has progressed through a rigid boot, to strapping, and onto physiotherapy, with a few hospital appointments along the way. No running or sports for a minimum of six to eight weeks.

Stephanie - NicholasAunt. Her Achilles tendon is improving with physiotherapy and a personal trainer. Bethans injury has increased Stephanies odds at beating her; for the moment!

Ed - NicholasCousin. Ed, whilst providing support on the Whatsapp group, has kept quiet about his runs - probably spelling disaster for everyone else and their ambitions, as the competitiveness heats up!

Laura - NicholasGodmother. Laura is currently injury free and with no pre-existing injuries; Laura maybe a good bet, or odds on winner, in our non competitive family.

Gary - Family Friend. Gary is contemplating his first run!

We are approaching eleven months since Nicholasdeath and that signifies that its nearly a whole year. Each of us will approach this with different emotions; perhaps relief that all the firstshave come and gone but we managed them; perhaps disbelief that a whole year has passed; or that the impending date seems unreal and that the pain and intensity have not yet diminished. It might be a mixture of all three, and other emotions too. As Nicholasmummy, I am experiencing all of the above emotions, but I am aware that there are more days now not crying than crying; but the heartache and physical pain of him not being here is not diminished one iota.

Blog 2 - April 30

Easter is over and the consumption of chocolate decreased, hopefully! So minds are being re-focused to the training programme for the Great South Run in October. Injury has plagued several of our runners but they are recovering slowly, with help from various professionals. The Encephalitis Society running shirts and vests have been received and the runners have chosen their picture of Nicholas to adorn the tops.

Julian -  Nicholas’ Dad. Continues to dislike running but is making progress. Julian has no Achilles tendon in one ankle, an old rugby injury which restricts his gait. Julian has completed several short runs. Julian is hoping to complete some local 10K runs over the coming months.

Rebecca - Nicholas’ Sister. Rebecca has been struggling with plantar fasciitis (pain on the bottom of the foot, around the heel and ankle) but exercise and supportive insoles are easing the pain; she  is unable to run but dog walks daily. Having read my first blog, Rebecca wants it noted that she intends to beat everyone!

Bethan - Nicholas’ Sister. Bethan is currently island hopping The Philippines, so no running. Bethan lives in London and whilst out for a short run recently became lost, and ended up completing a 10 mile run in less than one and a half hours! It appears that the competition is heating up.

Stephanie - Nicholas’ Aunt. Stephanie is struggling with her Achilles tendon too. Her ambitions to beat Bethan are diminishing.

Ed - Nicholas’ Cousin. Ed appears to be the most organised and sensible one of the runners. Downloading helpful information to the group’s Whatsapp chat. He will be challenging Bethan’s time.

Laura - Nicholas’ Godmother. Despite an early injury, Laura has managed 5K and has a running buddy, she will be moving up to a 10K run next month.

Gary - Family Friend. Gary has realised that last time he came 782nd, in the old man category despite not being that old! Gary’s main aim after much banter is to finish in one piece AND to beat Rebecca!

It is nine months since Nicholas’ death from complications, which arose from viral Encephalitis, which he contracted twenty years ago. As a family we have discovered that time does not heal all grief; time just allows you the ability to come to terms with something that you are unable to change. More importantly, it’s what you do with that time that determines the speed at which you start to heal. Thus it’s important to focus on yourself, your family and friends, and ‘allow’ the time required to grieve, which will differ from one person to another. Remembering, that those who are not directly affected by your grief have lives and focuses that may seem trivial and unimportant to you. Grief is a process and we have discovered there are no short cuts particularly when you are faced with the normal rhythm of life and family events such as birthdays, Easter, Mother’s day and soon Father’s day.

Blog 1

As families do the world over, we celebrated Nicholas’ birthday in February of this year.

However, Nicholas died last July (aged thirty-six years old) from complications rising from viral encephalitis, which had ravaged his mind and body for twenty years. How do you survive and move forward? As a family we are still working that out!

(Read Nicholas' Story)

Nicholas was our eldest and only son with two younger sisters. Rebecca, unable to buy her brother a birthday present, decided to run the Great South Run 2019 in memory of Nicholas and for the Encephalitis Society. Bethan, being the youngest, and with a healthy sibling competitiveness, decided to run too.

Nicholas’ death has greatly affected our family and friends. As Rebecca’s plan became common knowledge across the family, more and more people signed up to do the challenge. There are now seven runners raising money in memory of Nicholas.

Nicholas at his sister's wedding in 2016

Our team consists of:

Julian -  Nicholas’ dad. Not a natural runner; actually hates running but enjoys other sports! To sponsor Julian, visit his JustGiving Page

Rebecca - Nicholas’ sister. Completed a half marathon in 2016, and is a mother of three. Rebecca's JustGiving Page

Bethan  - Nicholas’ sister. Plays Netball weekly and holds the record in our family for having visited the most countries in the world! Will probably come first or second out of the team.

Stephanie - Nicholas’ aunt. Wants to come first or second but won’t! Not that we are competitive within our family! Stephanie's JustGiving Page

Ed - Nicholas’ first cousin once removed, but only four years older than Nicholas - families are complicated! Ed is the most likely to come first. Ed's JustGiving Page

Laura - Nicholas’ godmother. Never run before but enthusiastic, and encouraged by her family.

Gary - A friend of Rebecca’s who wanted to support us as a family and an all round good guy.

Who am I?

I’m Sarah, Nicholas’ mum, who has undertaken the task of writing a blog of the team’s training successes and any mishaps along the way. The greatest success of the last few weeks is the investment in new running trainers, booking hotels and a restaurant for twenty-eight people for after the run. And so the training begins...